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FAITH: A Rose by Any Other Name



On many occasions, I have heard a preacher refer to God’s “permissive will.”  Recently a pastor who was considering a serious ministerial move told me something like this: “I may not be in God’s perfect will, but I believe that I am in His “permissive will”.  In reply, I said; “so, you are going to settle for something less than God’s perfect will?”  His answer was “yes.”  As I studied over the implications of this situation, I began to try to discern just what this “permissive will” of God really is and I think that He has shown me something which everyone needs to recognize.

First, God’s will is God’s will, period.  There are no degrees to His will because that would imply that He really didn’t have his mind made up on something or that His will would fluctuate with facts and actions which he did not totally foresee.  If God is omniscient, and He is, then there is nothing withheld from His knowledge.  His will is not based upon what He sees that we are going to do, it is based upon what He knows will happen. 

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Secondly, “permissive will” says that a person can decide which level of God’s will, they will reside in as if to say that they are still within the “scope” of His will. A person is either in the will of God or they are out of His will.  There is no middle ground.  God does not operate in gray areas and that is exactly what “permissive will” is; a way for man to operate in a gray area, do what he finds most convenient, and feel good about his decision at the same time.  Another way to define “permissive will” is by this one word: disobedience.  Man will try to deify his disobedience and make himself appear holy by calling his disobedience by another name: God’s permissive will. A person may assume that because God does not kill them or bring immediate harsh judgement upon them, then He must be pleased with their choice.  No, God is simply displaying His grace and mercy while, at the same time, giving that person space to repent.

Thirdly, God bestowed man with a free will.  He can make up his own mind as to a choice he wants to make.  This writer thinks that what some call the “permissive will” of God is nothing more than man making up his own mind with his free will, deifying it by calling is by another name, and surviving by God’s grace and mercy until repentance comes.  And hopefully it will come because serious consequences follow when man leaves the “perfect” will of God and goes his own way.  Remember, when one does not do the will of God, it is sin and sin always produces serious consequences.  However, when one does the Will of God then God prepares the way and provides for His own.

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Finally, I summarize by saying that the “permissive will” does not exist.  God does not wait to see what we are going to do in order to proclaim what His will is on a subject.  Man fits into God’s will.  God does not fit into man’s will.  So, if a person decides to operate within the “permissive will” of God they are committing a sin and calling it by another name.  Remember, a rose by any other name is still a rose and sin by any other name is still sin.

Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 48 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 30 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com 


  1. Well Rev. Harrell, I found this writing very interesting. I have a very close personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We talk over everything before I make decisions in my daily life. And on several occasions it has occurred to me, or He has made known to me, that there are some things in life that really don’t matter to Him. Like my mother used to say “Suit yourself.” Now I’ll grant you that when it concerns major, serious decisions and you are seeking God’s will, you will do well to follow His guidance. I wonder if your Pastor friend talked the move over with God and deduced that God’s answer was “suit yourself.” It sounds like that is what he meant by permissive will. This Pastor does not sound like he is intentionally going against the will of God………..(in my opinion).

  2. Well Rev. Harrell, I found your writing very interesting as well. You are spot on with every point you made. Thank you for upholding truth in teaching God’s word.

    Speaking of God’s word, I would like Hazel Norman to know that their is nothing that doesn’t matter to God. We are encouraged In Mathew 10: 29-32 that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father.

    “29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. 32Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”

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